Updated: May 3
It's no secret that your emotions and your state of mind can affect your ability to perform. Your inner voice can sabotage you at the very moment you need to shine, regardless of expertise or preparation. We've all felt that moment of paralysis and haziness as our brains struggle to overcome nerves and regain confidence, whether presenting a proposal to clients, negotiating a salary with a boss, or communicating ideas to colleagues.
Mindfulness: You're the boss of your brain
When you're speaking, there are always two conversations happening: the conversation you're having with yourself in your mind, and the one you're having externally that's coming out of your mouth. Subconsciously, the other person will always hear that internal conversation going on in your head. Some will hear more than others, depending on how well they're listening, but it will always come through. So before you go into a meeting, you have to control that inner dialogue. You can't allow your brain to think, "I'm really nervous. I'll never get a raise. It's going to be really difficult." You have to take control of those thoughts and make your brain say, "Actually, I'm really excited about this. I'm great at my job. I deserve a raise. My boss is such a nice person." That message will absolutely come across and will almost certainly change the outcome of the interaction.
If you're doing that, you're actually manipulating your brain into relaxing and turning off fight-or-flight mode. The brain can't tell the difference between what's imaginary and what's reality. You're physically changing your body chemistry as well as emotionally changing your current state of mind. It seems simple, but it's something that most people (especially the U.S.) don't do. They don't think about controlling their own thoughts and being mindful and in the moment, but it's incredibly important, and anybody can do it.
Meditation: More important than ever
Our recent transition to remote communication has made us less connected, and worse, it has given us the sense that we can downplay the importance of human connections at work. We need to reverse this new trend and throw it on its head and say, actually, it's even more important to be connected because we're not physically in the same room. We do need to look at each other. We need to think about a meeting before we join. We need to meditate.
Meditation is a new practice for many, so I have created proprietary meditations that I share with my clients. The meditations are completely guided, so anybody can do them. You don't have to be a Zen master. You just have to start somewhere to build the skill sets.
If you have trouble with meditation and don't get it right the first time, you haven't done anything wrong. It might require baby steps to get to your goal and it's OK that it's going to take a little bit of time.
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Gaining mindfulness and changing your inner dialogue is challenging for most successful professionals. Many are used to always winning. They are used to always being able to cognitively figure things out. Learning to connect to your body is not easy. It's not easy to have great communication skills and to be aware of how you think and how you sound. That's a whole new skill set that most people have never really worked on, but it's a crucial one that has become more important as presentation and delivery matter more than ever.